Judge denies bid to halt Nuuanu subdivision
An attorney says the nearby residents will still press their case
A Honolulu developer won the first battle over the future of the Nuuanu-Dowsett hillside yesterday, when a state judge denied a request to temporarily bar planning officials from approving a hillside subdivision.
But an attorney for residents living near the proposed site say the war is not over, and that her clients will continue to fight for information on whether the subdivision has potential to cause flooding, landslides and rock falls.
In denying a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by the Nuuanu Valley Association, Circuit Judge Randal Lee allowed the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting to move forward in the process of granting preliminary approval for a nine-site subdivision proposed by developer Laumaka LLC.
The residents association had asked the judge to enjoin the permitting department from acting on the request for 30 days while the residents studied reports produced by the developer pertaining to the project.
Although Lee denied that request, the residents can continue to ask the court to order the permitting agency to turn over all drafts of geology reports submitted by the developer showing that the subdivision will not increase the probability of landslides, rockfalls or flooding in areas below the site.
Lea Hong, the residents' attorney, said the Nuuanu Valley Association also will continue asking the court to order the city to require an assessment of the project's environmental impacts.
Hong stressed that the residents do not necessarily oppose the subdivision, but simply want more information so they can know potential risks associated with it.
David Rosen, an attorney for Laumaka LLC, concurred that the key issues over public records and the environmental assessment were not yet resolved, but he said Laumaka was confident that the residents would not be able to halt the subdivision. Rosen noted that Laumaka has merely asked for the right to subdivide parcels and that the city still must grant approvals for proposed infrastructure improvements and building permits.
Meanwhile, the city has filed a motion to dismiss the neighborhood association's suit; a hearing is scheduled for May 30.
Although Hong shrugged off Lee's ruling as a minor setback, she took issue with one aspect of Lee's rationale. Lee had criticized the plaintiffs for suing the city for records only when the permitting office was about to decide whether to grant Laumaka its preliminary approval; this was months after the city had first denied the neighborhood association's information request.
Defending the residents' delays, Hong said the association had been trying to work things out with the city without going to court. Lee's decision, she said, discourages people from trying to work out such matters and encourages litigation.
"It seems like we're being punished for being diligent and trying to work things out with the city," Hong said. "The lesson learned is whenever you get denied agency information, run to court immediately."